I spoke as an activist in the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations, in general and a representative of the ‘Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide!’ Campaign (SMWeCGEC) which takes a special interest in the connections between the Maangamizi (the Afrikan Hellacaust), the global Afrikan reparations claim arising from it, and a host of contemporary injustices that not only we as Afrikans, but also the rest of humanity faces and which endanger our very existence. That is the possibility of human and other species extinction.
Extinction is an expression of structural violence against Indigenous peoples and their relations, and colonial violence in particular; involving systemic forms of harm, exclusion and discrimination, each of which is ecologically devastating. So how does extinction apply to us as Afrikan Heritage Communities?; well, for over 500 years, the entre Maangamizi, in all its phases, rooted in the Transatlantic Traffic in Enslaved Afrikans (TTEA), enslavement and colonialism, has been and still is geared towards the extinction of Afrikan people. These forms of colonial and structural violence not only involved mass killing, but also the invasion, occupation, settlement and despoliation of our Motherland, Afrika; uprooting and disordering Afrikan communities, trafficking millions of Afrikans into Abya Yala (the so-called Americas) which had genocidal and ecocidal outcomes; destroyed millions of lives over generations and changed the socio-economic fabric of existing societies in Afrika, Abya Yala and the Caribbean. For those that remained, this led to enduring injustice with intergenerational and epigenetic effects. For instance, undermining our own Afrikan modes of governance and kinship systems and in the process systematically destroying relationships between life forms in addition to epistemicide/s or the erasure of knowledges. Such forms of violence weakened the co-constitutive relationships between Afrikan Heritage communities, other life forms and ecosystems that have enabled our collective survival in harmony with nature for millennia.
An aspect of genocide is “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.” Various aspects of these harms are epitomised in the twelve manifestations of ecocide and genocide highlighted in the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Petition, a grassroots tool of the SMWeCGEC, working towards genocide and ecocide prevention by mobilising people as part of the People’s Reparations International Movement (PRIM) and the ISMAR to stop various manifestations of the Maangamizi. The third manifestation of the Maangamizi contained in the petition is: denial of Black and Afrikan ‘Mother Earth’ (Nana Asase Yaa), human and peoples’ rights to national self-determination as an oppressed People. In the petition, various other ‘power disparities’ and inhumane public policies and practices are identified which have genocidal outcomes and continue to cause devastation to Afrikan Heritage Communities within and beyond the UK. Such policies and practices have resulted in the decimation of generation after generation of people of Afrikan heritage due to ecocidally induced physical and cultural genocide, the destruction of ecological and social life-systems as well as natural flora and fauna. Not to mention the perpetration of a myriad of other environmental crimes such as wildlife crimes, illegal logging, illegal fishing, illegal waste disposal and pollution, illegal traffic of ozone-depleting substances and illegal mining.
Some of the genocidal outcomes for Afrikan Heritage Communities include:
• Physical, biological, economic, cultural genocide
• Social and civil death of Afrikan People.
• Ecocide of our environment.
However, the life-destroying pollution of our planet, anti-Black racism, its specific form of Afriphobia and the impoverishment of whom Frantz Fanon referred to as the ‘Wretched of the Earth’, all arguably have their causes in the current unjust world system. Many scholar-activists have helped us to understand that the current world system is rooted in and has been established through the Transatlantic enslavement of Afrikans. We as an Afrikan-led Reparatory Justice campaign are therefore working as an affinity group and campaign which is building solidarities with the Extinction Rebellion Movement on the basis of the commonality of interest we share in rebelling against ecocide and ensuring accountability for environmental crimes. In addition to the fact that our campaign itself is a form of ‘rebellion against extinction.’ – In that it is safeguarding Afrikan people’s role as custodians of humanity’s futures; which focuses on the racialised and other intersectional destruction/s of genocide and ecocide as deliberately inflicted forms of colonial, imperialist violence against Afrikans, indigenous peoples and Mother Earth, in furtherance of advancing holistic reparatory justice. This is something which PARCOE, the reparations coalition I am part, of refers to as Pan-Afrikan Reparations for Global Justice. In this regard, the SMWeCGEC has been heavily influenced by PARCOE’s approach or (‘overstanding’) of the problem of climate change from a Pan-Afrikan internationalist perspective; therefore seeing the climate emergency as the result of the criminal imposition – by the ruling classes of Europe – of a rapacious system expropriating the resources of the globe, not only at the expense of the majority of Humanity, but also to the detriment of our Mother Earth.
Our strapline in the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Campaign is ‘stopping the harm – the first step to repairing the damage’. By repairing the damage we are referring to reparations or as we prefer to say, Reparatory Justice. We see this as the beginning of the solution to reversing centuries of super-exploitation and extractivism and ending the ‘climate emergency’ and its corollary ‘human and peoples rights emergency’. Enforced access to much of the world’s natural capital – oil, gas, timber, minerals which lies on or beneath lands occupied by Afrikan, indigenous and Aboriginal peoples often entails land evictions, displacements, forced relocations, arrests, abuses and killings and other violations. For us as people of Afrikan heritage, reparations cannot simply be limited to financial compensation alone due to the nature of the damage and existential threat that we are facing. Comprehensive and adequate reparations require the removal of structures built on centuries of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and crimes of aggression, in the forms of enslavement, colonialism and neo-colonialism or what we refer to as the Maangamizi.
Reparations must entail the cessation of current violations, such as environmental crimes in particular, and guarantees of non-repetition including true decolonisation and the restitution of sovereignty for Afrikan, Aboriginal and other indigenous peoples globally. For sovereignty, as conceptualised by Afrikan and indigenous peoples, is indispensable to halting the destruction of Nana Asase Yaa (Mother Earth) as our home; which has been caused by the structurally violent European initiated cultural, political, socio-economic system known as capitalism that is rooted in the genocide of indigenous and Afrikan peoples, chattel enslavement and the dispossession of ancestral lands, territories and natural resources.
Afrikans, Aboriginal and indigenous peoples have always known that the processes of genocide and ecocide are inseparable, for what has happened to our people and the lands on which we live are interconnected. In the Pan-Afrikan perspective of the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Campaign this warrants an ‘overstanding’ that in stopping the harms of ecocide and genocide, we not only have to emancipate and save ourselves, but this process of stopping the harm and repairing the damage must also result in the repair of humanity and the cosmos. Since we as Afrikan people, who in the words of Audre Lorde, “were never meant to survive,” see that we have unique insights into what it means to be in stewardship of this World, Planet and Cosmos.
Accordingly, one of the seven goals of Pan-Afrikan Reparations for Global Justice is to “Enforce environmental elements of global justice full respect for Mother Earth/ Nana Asase Yaa rights.” However, we know that we cannot accomplish even our own self-determined goals for Reparatory Justice fully without working with others who are seeking to achieve similar goals of revolutionary social change and transformation. As the Afrikan freedom fighter Samora Machel said: “International solidarity is not an act of charity: it is an act of unity between allies fighting on different terrains toward the same objectives. The foremost of these objectives is to assist in the development of humanity to the highest level possible.”
But how do we repair the loss of a future?
We have to destroy the peace of those who are too comfortable to change in order to rebuild!
By all means, we must escalate the rebellion by building alternative futures.
I close with some words of wisdom from the Calypsonian Baron’s ‘Mother Earth is Dying’.
Today the things we nurture could determine the future
And pray what would the picture be
See grandson and granddaughter fighting, chaos and disaster
As Mother Earth protest violently
Wake up, wake up people and be part of the struggle!
The planet earth in serious trouble
We got to end this melancholy refrain
We cannot afford to lose Paradise again
That’s why I’m pleading.
Mother Earth is crying, she say to stop the polluting…
Mother Earth is Dying, we got to stop the polluting…
Whole attitude got to change, and priorities rearrange
We got to become more competent
The way we protect the environment
And fight, fight for all that it’s worth
Fight to save Mother Earth…
Mother Earth crying…
In case you don’t know, the planet Earth dying slow
What a sad way to go.
Esther Stanford-Xosei, Coordinator-General, ‘Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide!’ Campaign (SMWeCGEC)
The ‘Stop the Maangamizi: We Charge Genocide/Ecocide!’ Campaign (SMWeCGEC) was represented as part of a group of global witnesses who took part in the recent #RebellionDay organised by Extinction Rebellion on Saturday 17th November 2018. The Extinction Rebellion is a movement composed of several thousand people across the UK and other parts of the world that is using nonviolent direct action, economic disruption and civil disobedience to demand action on the climate emergency. “Based on the science,” reads Extinction Rebellion’s website, “we have ten years at the most to reduce CO2 emissions to zero, or the human race and most other species are at high risk of extinction within decades.”
At their launch on 31st October 2018, (with more than 1,000 protesters blocking Parliament Square in London), Extinction Rebellion issued a ‘Declaration of Rebellion‘ against the UK Government for its inaction on the climate crisis. Citing inspiration from grassroots movements such as Gandhi’s independence marches, the Suffragettes, the Civil Rights Movement and Occupy, Extinction Rebellion has attracted much support from religious groups. Such groups include Christian Climate Action, which has had several of its members arrested due to taking part in some of Extinction Rebellion protest actions.
So, what happened?
#RebellionDay was the climax of XR’s first week of coordinated actions of civil disobedience against the British Government for its criminal inaction in the face of the climate and ecological emergency which we all face. According to the Extinction Rebellion Press Release:
“More than 6,000 people have occupied five bridges in central London to raise the alarm on the climate and ecological crisis – and to put pressure on the Government to come clean on the fact that there is a climate emergency.
This is the first time in living memory that a protest group has intentionally and deliberately blocked the five iconic bridges of central London – Southwark, Blackfriars, Waterloo, Westminster and Lambeth bridges.”
This action brought huge disruption to central London. According to Extinction Rebellion 85 people were arrested. The Metropolitan Police said most arrests were for breaches of the Highway Act, however all of the 82 conscientious protectors have now been released under investigation.
Extinction Rebellion’s topline demands are:
1. The Government must admit the truth about the ecological emergency, reverse all policies inconsistent with addressing climate change, and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens.
2. The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels.
3. A national Citizen’s Assembly must be created, to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.
The following Afrikan Heritage Community groups and organisations were also represented: PARCOE, the Global Afrikan People’s Parliament and INOSAAR-RepAfrika. SMWeCGEC members Esther Stanford-Xosei and Kofi Mawuli Klu spoke at Blackfriars Bridge as well as at the Extinction Assembly, which took part on Westminster Bridge. They are part of a group of Global South ‘witnesses’ who were invited to “bear witness” to the impact of the climate emergency in their countries. The final part of the action involved a Citizens Assembly where attendees formed small groups as part of a sit-in on Westminster Bridge and discussed the question: ‘How do you think societies should be organised to create a world for our children?’ #RebellionDay concluded with an interfaith ceremony in Parliament Square, where the action was taken to plant some trees!
Global South Witnesses speaking about West Papua, Mongolia, Afrika & the Caribbean
Why is the ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ Campaign linking with Extinction Rebellion?
Actually, we were first contacted by a member of Extinction Rebellion who expressed an interest in becoming a ‘Stop the Maangamizi!’ petition-action-learner. After some correspondence, a colleague from the CAFA Archival Resources Team (CARAT) based at May Day Rooms met some of the leaders of Extinction Rebellion who asked to meet some of us, so a PARCOE representative also involved in this campaign, together with the CARAT met and started discussing terms of engagement. After some discussion, the SMWeCGEC decided to fully engage with Extinction Rebellion in their activities and explore how best we could collaborate. Not least because working with Extinction Rebellion is being done in fulfilment of some of our own Pan-Afrikan internationalist campaign aims.
Aims three and four of the SMWeCGEC are to:
- Mobilise petition signers/supporters to organise as a community of advocates for ‘Stopping the Maangamizi’ as a force within the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR).
- Catalyse the development of such a force into an integral part of the Peoples Reparations International Movement (PRIM) to ‘Stop the Maangamizi’ and build MAATUBUNTUMAN as the most effective way to prevent its recurrence as well as effect and secure measures of reparatory justice from the ground-up.
It is therefore the view of the SMWeCGEC that our campaign can be strengthened in the process of building a concrete relationship with concrete allies engage in forms of resistance to aspects of the Maangamizi and who are also in pursuit of similar objectives as us; such as stopping ecocide, taking seriously the threat of human and other species extinction, as well as countering extractivism and reversing the harmful effects of extractive industries etc. It is our belief that this inter-movement dialogue and action has the potential for galvanising and strengthening the Peoples Reparations International Movement (PRIM) and through that also its constituent part, the International Social Movement for Afrikan Reparations (ISMAR).
We have therefore linked up with Extinction Rebellion because of the common interest we share in exposing, tackling and trying to stop the harms of ecocide as well as seeking to bring about a different World Order in which people relate to each other, to the World, Mother Earth and the Cosmos in accordance with the principles of ubuntu. This is what we refer to as Ubuntudunia, (a Pan-Afrikan conception of a world of global justice for all, consisting of the terms ubuntu + dunia which is Kiswahili term for world); something which is possible that our combined efforts with such movements, who are also organising to bring about global justice can achieve. Whilst one of the specific reparations goals of the ISMAR is to establish MAATUBUNTUMAN Pan-Afrkan Union of Communities, part of the work of the PRIM is to achieve Ubuntudunia.
You see, as activists and campaigners, we often know what we are fighting against but do not always take the time to prefigure the alternative world and realities that we wish to see. As you may be aware, the SMWeCGEC partners with the Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March which last year adopted the theme: promoting the reparatory justice change we are organising to bring about.
It is the view of the SMWeCGEC that working with the Extinction Rebellion will catalyse the evolution of the Reparations March by facilitating the participation of those who are interested in the Ubuntu Non-Afrikan Allies Bloc of the Reparations March in Extinction Rebellion activities in such a way that furthers our mutual action-learning.
Whilst many critique marching, we see the Reparations March as a dress rehearsal and part of the preparatory process for the development of other tactics and forms of organisation which will lead to the achievement of our strategic objectives of holistic Reparatory Justice. Hence why the SMWeCGEC initiated the ISMAR Advocates training course in 2016 as a springboard to develop the necessary training that is required to organise mass civil disobedience.
We are working with Extinction Rebellion internationally because it is also important to globalise work on exposing and stopping the Maangamizi to achieve Reparatory Justice all over the world. This work involves our colleagues in Vazoba Afrika & Friends Networking Open Forum and the Global Afrikan Family Reunion International Council (GAFRIC) as well as the West Afrikan Grassroots Preparatory Action Coordinating Committee of the INOSAAR (WAGPACC-INOSAAR).
Where do we go from here?
We will now make use of the opportunity we have to reflect on the lessons rom this first action-learning encounter with Extinction Rebellion in terms of assessing what possibilities exist, preparing for further dialogue with Extinction Rebellion and working out how we take on board lessons from their experiences of non-violent direct action and mass civil disobedience and how we also respond to their interest in learning from us. One of the key points of action-learning is how non-violent direct action relates to implementation of the aims of the annual Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March.
We take on board the above point made by Extinction Rebellion as it is something which we are also familiar hearing from many critics of the Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March. Hence why the following theme for the 2018 People’s Open Parliamentary Session on Afrikan Reparations (POPSAR) @Parliament Square as part of the programme of the Reparations March:
Be it resolved, the Reparations March, as a form of reparatory justice street protest, is being made inadequate due to inactivity by the majority of its participants in taking steps to advance the campaign for reparations between the annual marches.
Indeed, many have critiqued the Reparations March but have not presented an evidence base for the alternative strategies of tactics which can bring about reparatory justice social change. We as the SMWeCGEC are now also working with allies that are demonstrating with action what alternative tactics can be, through their own self-disciplined, organisation and sacrifice for a cause which they feel is greater than themselves.
It is true, unless those who are serious about the goals of the ISMAR and effecting and securing holistic Reparatory Justice are willing to take organised forms of resistance in the form of planned mass civil disobedience then not much will change. However, this is not a call to undisciplined rioting, this is a call to work for purposeful rebellion by organising people who are willing to work together, to think together, to learn together, to learn from each other, to learn from others including non-Afrikan allies; to strategise as well as build the necessary infrastructure for making such tactics of rebellion a reality.
Esther Stanford-Xosei & Kofi Mawuli Klu holding placard of Dr. Gail Bradbrook, professor of molecular biophysics & co-founder of Rising Up!, which is now helping to organise the Extinction Rebellion
Kofi Mawuli Klu on Sky TV promoting #RebellionDay